On the eve of the January 22, 2013 Israeli election, the Israeli public demonstrates more realism than its politicians. Israelis highlight security imperatives when responding to reality-driven polls, which pose questions based on the stormy Arab Winter and not on the mirage of the Arab Spring.
Increasingly, Israelis recognize that — in the Middle East — bolstered security constitutes a solid base for survival and for the pursuit of peace. They realize that the pursuit of peace, by lowering the threshold of security, could jeopardize survival, as well as the slim chance for peace.
Notwithstanding the overwhelmingly dovish Israeli media and academia, most Israelis — Right, Center and Left — have concluded that security-driven peace supersedes peace-driven security.
In December 2012, a most thorough and detailed poll was conducted by one of the deans of Israeli pollsters, Mina Tzemach, on behalf of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The poll demonstrates that Israelis respond to real local and regional developments — more than to wishful thinking — when shaping positions on the peace process, security requirements, land for peace, the two-state-solution and Iran.
Such positions are directly impacted by the 20-year track record of the 1993 Oslo Accords: an unprecedented Israeli gesture met by unprecedented Palestinian hate education, terrorism and noncompliance. Israeli opinions are also influenced by the current turbulence, unpredictability, unreliability, treachery and instability on the Arab street. The Israeli state of mind is also shaped by the violent Palestinian response (thousands of missiles launched at Israel) to the 2005 Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip — a tormenting, painful concession of uprooting 25 thriving Jewish communities.
According to the December Mina Tzemach (Dahaf Polling Institute) poll, most Israelis assume that Palestinians are concerned about the existence — and not the size — of Israel, and therefore are very skeptical about the land-for-peace formula. Most Israelis do not trust Palestinian compliance with agreements, and therefore are dubious about the two-state solution, which they increasingly consider a two-state delusion.
For instance, 76% (83% among Israeli Jews) believe that an Israeli retreat to the pre-1967 sliver along the Mediterranean would not satisfy the Palestinians or other Arabs. Only 22% (15% among Israeli Jews) assume that such a concession would produce an end to the conflict. About 74% of Israelis are convinced that strategic depth — a code word for Judea and Samaria — is pertinent to Israel’s national security. Only 21% discount the importance of strategic depth. Fully 66% disapprove (and 29% approve) a withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines in return for a peace accord with the Palestinians and all Arab countries. About 63% are against a withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines with minor modifications.
A ratio of 65:33 opposes the repartitioning of Jerusalem in the context of a peace accord; 65:31 reject a withdrawal from the Jordan Valley; 68:28 refuse evacuation of Ariel and western Samaria; 72:22 insist on retaining control over the blocs of Jewish settlements; 73:18 disapprove relinquishing control over the Judea and Samaria mountains that dominate Ben-Gurion International Airport; 67:22 insist that Israel retains control of Highway 443, which connects Jerusalem to the coastal plain via the West Bank.
Only 20% of the Israeli public assumes that the recent developments on the Arab street are irrelevant to the Arab/Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Only 21% maintains that these events warrant an acceleration of the peace process.
About 52% — compared with 49% in 2005 — consider secure boundaries superior to peace, compared with 36% who view peace as the prerequisite to security.
Most Israelis trust only the Israel Defense Forces to protect the country. For example, only 39% assume that Israel can rely on the U.S. military during an emergency. About 68% oppose the stationing of foreign troops — including U.S. troops — in the Jordan Valley. Only 26% would support such a deployment.
About 68% do not believe that sanctions constitute an effective option against Iran; 53% presume that the U.S. will not resort to the military option to prevent Iran’s nuclearization; 53% support an Israeli military pre-emption against Iran if the U.S. fails to pre-empt.
This most comprehensive Mina Tzemach poll highlights the Israeli public as top heavy on realism and low on wishful-thinking. Most Israelis do not indulge in the New Middle East Delusion, March of Democracy or the Facebook and Youth Revolution; they brace themselves for the Real Middle East and its clear and present threats. It is a rare state of mind among Western democracies, enhancing Israel’s power-projection and Israel’s role as the beachhead of the Free World in the economically and militarily critical Middle East. It is a source of optimism.